Unearthing Wu Daozi (c. 686 – c. 760)
Worshipped by later folk artists as the God of Painting, Wu Daozi (c. 686 – c. 760) was also praised by Tang art historian Zhang Yanyuan as someone who “did not look back and will have no successors.” But alas this Sage of Painting (Hua Sheng) left no work to us (imagine if we could only read about Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo, or know Du Fu and Li Bo only by reputation). Can archaeology remedy this unfortunate situation as it has done for so many other fields from classical philosophy to ancient science? This talk suggests that a set of newly discovered imperial tomb murals (so new that they are still being conserved in a museum lab) may allow us to approach Wu’s style more closely than ever before, and also leads us to problematize the concept of authorship in Tang painting.
Wu Hung is the Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor of Art History and the College at the University of Chicago.